Multitasking Tips

“Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  LINK TO PROGRAM

It is a myth that multitasking increases productivity yet you see it happening all around you. What is important to understand is that it is often a choice. Interestingly, many of the retirees I know interject comments like they are busier than they were when they were working. Exciting for sure to have time to explore and do all those things you did not have time to do before.  One of the changes in normal aging or when you are stressed is that you do not multitask as well. If you are more aware of what you are doing and modifications you can make, you may find that you are maximizing the capabilities you have.

Some things to think about:
1. You need to pay attention for 5 to 10 seconds if you want to remember. So when you get the thought to make a call in the middle of doing something and then get interrupted, it makes sense you “forgot” to do it.  It was a passing thought for a brief second or two. That is why you may be standing in front of the refrigerator wondering why you are there. Maybe you were planning to put the laundry in the dryer but became preoccupied with paying bills.   That may be why you cannot remember where you put your keys when you do not return them to where they belong. It happens to us all the time.

2. When there is a lot of chatter in your head, you are not giving things the attention they need. It may be something you are worried about, an aching back or too many things piling up on your to do list. The likelihood of forgetting and missing important details is often the result when there is an underlying distraction on your mind, especially of it takes hold over and over again.

3. The problem you encounter when doing two things at the same time is that neither gets your full attention. You cannot carry on a detailed conversation with someone and write an email. The more complex the task, the likelihood of mistakes. Neither task is getting the best of what you have to offer. An end result of frequent multitasking, really task switching, is that you feel overloaded and that leads to unnecessary stress.

Tips to consider:

1. Become better aware of your distractions. Sometimes it may be a text message,  conversation in the background, or the television someone just turned on that diverts your attention. Whatever it is, be aware and make note of what task or situation you are leaving, especially if it is important or complicated. Find ways to manage the distractions and not automatically respond. Make focusing on the task at hand a priority whenever possible. Close the door, finish what you are working on then check the text message, or ask someone to wait a minute so you can easily pick up where you were prior to the interruption.

2. Repeating or verifying the information can be very beneficial. It helps you engage that 5- 10 second rule. A recent conversation with a high school friend revealed that we had similar study habits. We would read and take notes when studying but not necessarily go over them again. That strategy helped us to absorb the material better the first time around. Know your weaknesses then use your strengths to maximize recall. It is easy to get lazy and go on automatic pilot when a few changes in your overall awareness can be a great boost to memory fitness.

3. Perhaps it is time to look at all the things you have taken on. Sometimes you say yes to something when you are already feeling the pressure of lots to do and not enough time to get it done. Someone made the comment that stress is when your mouth says yes and your head says no. Usually you are finding a way to try and get out of one more thing to do when this happens. A better option is tell the person you will get back to them then prioritize as best you can.

4. It is very helpful to look at the bigger picture. If you are undergoing a medical procedure, taking on a big project with lots of details or something complex, you are really likely to try and multitask. Set up a plan and set aside enough uninterrupted time to work on a specific aspect instead of jumping around from one thing to another.

TO DO THIS WEEK: Browse a new store for a few items and just pay attention. Think of where they may be located. Go by yourself and leave your phone in the car. Take a walk or a drive in the country. Sharpen your skills of observation without any distractions. Be in the moment. As John Wooden says “It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.”

Link to “Memory Matters” for ALL Ages  cable television show: Multitasking Tips.  Memory Fitness products by Kathryn Kilpatrick

About Kathryn Kilpatrick

Kathryn Kilpatrick received her Master's degree in Speech-Language Pathology in 1968 from the University of Massachusetts. She has worked in a variety of settings, primarily in Ohio, including hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and for decades in the area of home health care. Kathryn is president of Memory Fitness Matters ( and Communication Connection( She offers memory coaching for all ages and has a geriatric consulting practice. She is a national motivational speaker and author of more than 30 products to enhance communication and connection as well as a Memory Fitness Toolkit. Kathryn brings her decades of experience as a speech-language pathologist to all those wanting to enhance their quality of life, particularly when there are communication, memory and cognitive challenges. Her websites offer information on a wide variety of topics related to elder care concerns as well as memory fitness and successful aging.
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